Mintos and Contacts set to square off in SMAAAHL quarter-final

Daily Herald File Photo Saskatoon Contacts forward Brayden Yager and Prince Albert Mintos blueliner Chase Pauls chase after the puck during a game in Shellbrook last month.

Although the Saskatoon Contacts took three out of four meetings with the Prince Albert Mintos in the 2019-20 Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League regular season, both coaches are planning to throw those matchups out the window when their best-of-five quarter-final series gets underway at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday at Merlis Belsher Place.

“It’s likely going to be a five-on-five battle in every game and we just have to make sure that we are consistent each time that we play them,” Mintos head coach Danton Danielson said. “The first three games we had with them were really close but we let things get away from us in our last game in Shellbrook in January, so I’m sure there will be some motivation from our guys to have a better performance against the Contacts.”

“It’s a whole new season now,” Contacts head coach Marc Chartier added. “There’s all new lines and different pieces in place with guys coming back from junior or players that are out with injuries. Everything’s different at this time of year and the games are played at a different pace when the playoffs start.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting in Saskatoon, the Mintos and Contacts will square off again at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Art Hauser Centre and on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. at Merlis Belsher Place.

If needed, a fourth game would be held in Prince Albert on Monday, March 2 at 7 p.m. and a fifth and deciding contest would take place in Saskatoon on Thursday, March 5 at 8:15 p.m.

Each side is heading into the playoffs with wins in their back pocket.

The 30-12-2-0 Contacts, who finished in third place in the regular season standings, won their last two games before the post-season as they earned a 5-4 road triumph over the Notre Dame Argos on Feb. 13 and 3-2 home victory over the Yorkton Maulers on Feb. 18.

“We’re feeling good with how we ended the year,” Chartier said.

“We had some ups and downs during the season but I felt like we really progressed well over the last few weeks. I like our chances going into the playoffs.”

The Mintos, who earned the sixth seed with a 27-15-1-1 mark, are also heading into the playoffs with a pair of victories.

They earned a 3-1 road win over the Swift Current Legionnaires on Saturday and followed that up with 5-2 triumph over the Maulers on Sunday in Yorkton.

“It’s always good to head into the post-season on a high note,” Danielson said.

“We’ve been searching for that full 60-minute effort all season and I think we had two games that were pretty close to that.”

This marks the first time that the two sides have squared off in the playoffs since 2018, when the Mintos swept aside the Contacts in the quarter-final round.

After picking up a 3-1 win over the Contacts in Saskatoon on Oct. 3, the Mintos dropped a 3-2 decision at the Art Hauser Centre on Nov. 21, were doubled up in a 4-2 contest at Merlis Belsher Place on Dec. 3 and fell in a 4-1 matchup in Shellbrook on Jan. 18.

Chase Bertholet, Chase Friedt-Mohr, Turner McMillen and Kayden Skulmoski all had a goal and two assists each in the season series, as did Gabe Klassen in one game before he moved up to the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks.

Spencer Welke had a 1-2 record with a 2.37 goals against average and Joel Favreau had a 0-1 mark with a 3.10 goals against average.

Brayden Yager led the Contacts in scoring during the season series with four goals and an assist, with three of those goals coming in the game that was held in Shellbrook.

Riley Heidt, who is expected to be a top pick in May’s WHL Bantam Draft along with his linemate Yager, had three assists in the four matchups with the Mintos, while Matthew Hodson and Connor Yager had two goals and an assist each.

Ethan Chadwick had a 2-1 record with a 2.33 goals against average and Chase Hamm posted a 1-0 mark with a 1.00 goals against average.

While the Contacts are expected to have a full-strength lineup for the series opener, the status of Mintos’ captain Chase Friedt-Mohr was still up in the air as of Monday morning.

The Spokane Chiefs defensive prospect has been sidelined with an injury since a Saturday, Feb. 8 matchup with the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Tuesday will also see the opening game of the quarter-final series between the second ranked Saskatoon Contacts and the seventh seeded Tisdale Trojans.

The other best-of-five matchups will start on Thursday as the top ranked Regina Pat Canadians will host the eighth seeded Swift Current Legionnaires, while the fourth ranked Warriors will face a fifth seeded Notre Dame Hounds side that has won the last two league titles.

“When you look at the top six teams in the standings, it was super close,” Chartier said.

“Each team in the league has shown that they can win on any given night. I think the team that gives the best effort will come away with the championship.”